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Commissioners to buy Baltimore Street property for library parking

April 20, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners voted Tuesday to buy a Baltimore Street property for library parking and to create four new agricultural preservation districts after receiving no public comment on either topic during public hearings.

The commissioners voted 3-1 to buy the property at 28-50 E. Baltimore St. from Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Corp. for $1.17 million.

The property is needed for new parking spaces for the Washington County Free Library downtown branch after an expansion project consumes the current parking area, officials have said. The county will own the property, but the purchase is being funded through the City of Hagerstown's $1.5 million contribution to the library project, Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth III said.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire voted against the purchase, and Commissioner William J. Wivell abstained from the vote.

Aleshire said he supported purchasing property necessary for the library's parking needs, but he did not want to purchase the buildings on the property, which he said could lead to additional expenses for the county in the future.

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The 2.77-acre property includes two historic buildings and the former Massey Auto Body Shop, Aleshire said.

Wivell said he was not ready to vote on the purchase without more information on costs associated with the buildings on the property.

"I think, at minimum, the taxpayers need to know what the full cost of this acquisition is," he said.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the creation of 10-year agricultural preservation districts for the following properties:

o The Schnebly dairy farm on Fairview Road near Clear Spring, about 152 acres

o The Nicholas Hill crop farm on Big Spring Road near Clear Spring, about 33 acres

o The Dick Stoner beef farm on Dam No. 4 Road near Downsville, about 109 acres

o Richard Seibert's Knob Hall Winery near Clear Spring, about 154 acres

Under the preservation district program, the properties' owners commit to leaving the land agricultural for 10 years, during which they are exempt from county tax on agricultural land and buildings and get a credit of up to $711 a year on a farmhouse, county land preservation administrator Eric Seifarth said.

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